Memorizing and understanding

Learning a language is primarily about remembering lots of different words and phrases in that language. But as I pointed out in an earlier blog post, the word "learn" has more than one meaning. There's learning how a bike works, and then there is learning to ride a bike. The first kind of learning is storing ideas, and the second kind is becoming good at a process.

So here's how the kinds of learning match up with the information I'm giving you on each phrase:

  • I give you a short phrase and a situation so that you can memorize it. Practice saying this phrase. Repeat it over and over until you can say the whole thing to yourself. Your mind will become accustomed to saying things this way. This is the second kind of learning, like riding a bike.
  • I then give you more information about the structures that pop up in the phrase. This is for the part of your brain that wants to understand how it works. Of course, you won't really understand until you've heard it used 20 times in different situations. But at least a little information can prevent you from misunderstanding how it's used.

Both parts are important, but if I had to pick one, I'd say the memorizing aspect is more important. Why? Because that's the part that most language learners are missing. So if I had to give you advice on how to use PhraseMix to study English, I would suggest:

  • Read the situation, the phrase, and the explanation.
  • Repeat the phrase to yourself.
  • Come back and review the phrase again later that day.
  • Put the phrase into a system like Anki or BrainScape
  • Record yourself saying the phrase & listen to the recording over & over
  • Once the phrase is stuck in your head & you start thinking about it at strange times throughout the day, you're done. Congratulations, you've learned a useful, natural English phrase!

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